Offseason Notebook: Rashard Lewis signing impact
I love the NBA offseason. I mean, I'm even contemplating foregoing a night on the town just so I can catch a glimpse of Kevin Durant's first summer-league game on Friday night (12:00 am ET on NBA TV). I'm already giddy, and yes I realize that I am obsessed. For the fantasy hoops fan, it doesn't get any better than the offseason. There's always something going on, so many intriguing storylines. Heck, one could argue that the NBA offseason is even more interesting than the regular season and the playoffs. I really can't even remember the last time there was this much excitement around the NBA. That's why I'm ecstatic to be your host throughout the summer, looking at all the free agent deals, coaching changes, trades and anything else that might influence the fantasy game. Of course, we'll start with free agency, which is now in full swing. A few big moves already have been announced, but remember, while these deals are almost certainly going to happen, nothing is official until July 11. Let's take a look at some of the deals so far:
Orlando Magic -- The Magic just got a whole heck of a lot better, and they did it without any first-round draft picks or desperate draft-day deals. That's right, kids, Rashard Lewis is going to Disney World. I don't know about you, but I just found myself a new team to cheer. Dwight Howard and Lewis playing the inside-outside game? Yes, please. It's still unclear how the rest of the off-season will play out for the Magic, though it appears as if Darko Milicic is on his way out. Regardless of how things shake out the rest of the way, it's hard not to like this move for everyone in Orlando other than Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglo now becomes expendable, as Lewis gives the Magic a similar type of player who is much, much better at his craft. I don't think Lewis' fantasy value swings much in either direction, although he might see a small jump in the points category. Howard, on the other hand, benefits just by having a big-time outside threat, thus limiting the opposition's ability to double-team him in the post. Jameer Nelson (or whoever's playing point guard) undoubtedly will see an increase in assists with the sharp-shooting Lewis in town.
Meanwhile, Grant Hill has left the Magic for greener pastures in Phoenix, which (for the moment) will give Trevor Ariza a chance to see more of the court. In 2006-07, Ariza was right on the brink of having some serious fantasy value, averaging 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals on 57.8 percent shooting from the field in the month of December, but suffered a knee injury that set him back the rest of the way. The way the Magic lineup appears right now, I don't see Ariza starting, but I do see him earning the bulk of minutes off the bench as the sixth man, which is a role he should excel in. Of course, we're going to have to see the rest of Orlando's moves before we can call Ariza a sleeper come fantasy draft day.
Seattle SuperSonics -- The loss of Lewis is great news for Kevin Durant, or at least for those who plan to own Durant when the fantasy season rolls around. Who else is going to score on this team? OK, Chris Wilcox, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West can put the ball in the basket, but Durant is easily their best and most well-rounded offensive talent. Jeff Green will also see more run, although at this point, it's still unclear how new coach P.J. Carlesimo will break down the swingman minutes with Durant, Green, Szczerbiak and West (though West is technically not a swingman) all deserving minutes. Either way, the fantasy expectations for Durant are even higher than they were before, so be ready to pay the price if you want Durant on your roster.
Phoenix Suns -- Get ready for a position battle in Phoenix as Hill's addition puts Boris Diaw's starting spot in jeopardy. Looking at their current roster, it's clear that Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa (despite the fact that he will probably come off the bench), Raja Bell and Steve Nash all need their minutes. Diaw and Hill will need to find minutes also, and therein lies the problem. The Suns could shake up their lineup between now and the start of the season, but if both Diaw and Hill stay, neither will be as effective as we'd like them to be in the fantasy game.
Toronto Raptors -- With Morris Peterson on his way out of town, the Raptors went searching for another sharpshooter and found their man in Jason Kapono. Kapono's arrival gives the Raptors another deep threat to go along with Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker. That said, I'm always wary of players coming off of career years, and Kapono is no different. He really came out of nowhere last season to average 10.9 points and 1.6 three-pointers per game while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and 89.2 percent from the line. Granted, he is a very good shooter, but what are the odds that he can repeat his ridiculous 51.4 percent from behind the arc? Other than his threes and percentages, Kapono's fantasy value is fairly limited. He'll score enough points to be more than just a three-point specialist, but he'll probably be taken way too early in drafts this season.
The NBA's summer leagues tip off on Friday night, and both Greg Oden and Durant will be suiting up as professionals for the first time. We can't place too much importance on summer league stats, but the games will give us a chance to see this year's draft class in action. We'll report back next week with any relevant fantasy information, but in the meantime, he's a list of notable players that I'll be keeping a close eye in the Vegas Summer League:
Golden State Warriors- Marco Belinelli, Brandan Wright / Los Angeles Clippers- Al Thornton and Chris Kaman (not sure why he's playing but I'd like to catch a glimpse of him to see if he's due for a comeback season)
New York Knicks- Have not yet announced their summer roster
Team China Basketball- Yi Jianlian
Stay tuned next week for more free agent signings, including a breakdown of Juan Carlos Navarro, who might be on his way from overseas after recently getting out of his contract with his current Spanish League team, FC Barcelona.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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